Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Twins

This morning's New York Times coverage of the 10th anniversary of the 11 September 2001 attacks opens with numbers:

3,653 days have passed since 8:46 a.m., the day 11 September as we now know it "began" not in the technical sense but emotionally, psychologically, culturally, and politically.

87,672 hours have passed,

which translate into 5,260,320 minutes, or

315,619,200 seconds.

2,749 people died at the World Trade Center site, and another 224 in Washington and in a Pennsylvania field. 343 firefighters died in the line of service.

But one number was not mentioned: 2.

The twins.

I understand why: 6 buildings actually collapsed at the New York City site (WTC 1, 2, 3, and 7; St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church; and half of the Bankers Trust building). The North Bridge over West Street that linked the Tower complex to the World Financial Center was also destroyed as the Twin Towers fell in upon themselves. WTC 4, 5, and 6 partially collapsed. Many more buildings suffered major damage. A section of the Pentagon was also destroyed.

And four planes virtually vanished, relinquishing only a few identifiable tires or seat belts or other small objects from their fiery ends.

So to single out 2 buildings approaches blasphemy.

But the Twin Towers--and the now iconic photographs documenting their final minutes--remain emblazoned in our collective and individual memories. They occupy significant space: but now that is an incorporeal, unfathomable space that mimics the seemingly limitless extension of those towers deep into the sky.

Today, we think of those Twins. Not one of us can escape even a moment of time in which our minds flash back to that day, or conjures images of the sleek steel lines of the buildings' exteriors--parallel vertical runways leading us to a world beyond.

And today I think of other twins--the twin Pieris japonica shrubs in the Buddha Bed that died while I was away this summer. Yesterday, I inadvertently discovered that which I was looking for but did not know it. The Buddha Bed, like the World Trade Center site in New York City, faces redesign. I will not, however, preserve the footprints of my lost twins, for in the gardening world sentimentality must occupy a backseat to the demands of real estate and the dictates of natural processes.

Fortunately with respect to the Ground Zero redesign, sentimentality rightly won and a memorial (belated in my view owing to the abhorrent, unbecoming squabbles that characterized the early reconstruction and redesign process) now finally appears.

The footprints are preserved.

Reflecting pools look downward--and deeply inward--at the improbable abyss that has become our memories of that devastating day.

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